What do Mormons, Muslims, Atheists, Gays, and Lesbians Have in Common?

The Book of Mormon © The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2003)

Aside from being human, one of the most interesting things that Mormons, Muslims, Atheists, Gays and Lesbians have in common is that a substantial number of voters are biased against voting for members of these socially constructed groups for President of the United States. A recent Gallup Poll and a journal article that is being published in Electoral Studies and discussed in Vanderbilt University’s “Research News” present data and analysis on this issue.

The Gallup Poll covering the period June 9-12, 2011, shows an unwillingness to vote for people with the following characteristics as President: Mormon, 22%; Gay or Lesbian, 32%; and Atheist, 49%.  These religions and sexual orientations have substantially higher negatives than other groups tested by Gallop: Hispanics, 10%; Jews, 9%; Baptists, 7%; Catholics, 7%; women, 6%; and Blacks, 5%. Obviously, people can belong to one or more classifications, but the meaning of the survey is clear.

Gallop points out that the bias against Mormons has remained consistently high over decades while there have been steep declines in other categories. Resistance to a Mormon President shows that the largest differences are among different educational groups: college graduates, 12%; some college, 20%; and no college, 31%. Significant differences on Mormons for President were not correlated with gender, age, or religion. Republicans and independents demonstrated less reluctance than Democrats. Those from the East showed less bias towards a Mormon candidate than those in other parts of the country, especially the Midwest. These findings may pose a hurdle for Republican Presidential primary candidates Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman.

The data and analysis presented in the Electoral Studies journal article by Brett V. Benson, Jennifer L. Merolla and John G. Geer, “Two Steps Forward and One Step Back? Bias in 2008 Presidential Election” makes a number of interesting observations concerning religious bias. The data came from two Internet-based experiments run by Polimetrix in November 2007 and October 2008. John Geer, a political scientist at Vanderbilt observed:

“Our data showed that the voters’ increased social contact with Mormons reduces bias . . .

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Obama on Afghanistan Troop Withdrawal

President Obama delivering his speech on Afghanistan, 6/22/2011 © Chuck Kennedy | Whitehouse.gov

In his remarks to the nation last night on the way forward in Afghanistan,  the leadership style of President Obama was on full view. He presented a clear rational position, addressing immediate concerns with precision and subtlety, placing a simple decision about the pace of troop withdrawals in a larger historical context. It was rhetorically elegant. It was, from a strictly formal point of view, a satisfying speech. It was substantively, though, challenging, concerning immediate military, political and economic calculations.

I watched the address having earlier in the week attended a local organizing meeting of “Organizing for America” (which will soon again become “Obama for America”). The attendees included those who are realistically pleased with Obama’s Presidency, and those who were once enthusiastic, but are now skeptical. I thought about both the skeptics and the realists watching the speech.

An anti-war activist was particularly concerned about Obama’s war policies. To his mind, Obama has continued Bush’s approach, with variations on a deeply problematic theme. While he had listened carefully during the campaign to Barack Obama, as the candidate promised to withdraw from the bad war in Iraq so that we could fight the good fight in Afghanistan, he has still been disappointed by that war’s escalation. He predicted that Obama would announce a minuscule reduction of forces. I recall: 5,000 this summer and 10,000 in a year. He didn’t believe that a real change in direction of an overly militarized foreign policy would be forthcoming.

The announced troop reductions more than double my neighbor’s expectation. But I suspect that he is not satisfied. After all, the announced withdrawal of 33,000 troops by the end of next summer will still leave twice as many troops in Afghanistan than at the beginning of the Obama administration. The Congressional Democrats who are criticizing Obama’s decision are representing broad public judgment that enough is enough in Afghanistan. I should add that I share this judgment.

There were of course no strong opponents of the President at our meeting. Although it is noteworthy that the first meeting . . .

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